THE OUTSIDER (2021, doc)

August 23, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. September 11, 2001 was “a blue sky day” in New York City. Until it wasn’t. Co-directors Pamela Yoder and Steven Rosenbaum previously collaborated on 7 DAYS IN SEPTEMBER (2002), a documentary focusing on how the tragic events of that day impacted the lives of various folks. Their work on that film led the filmmakers directly to this project which examines the seven year process of opening the National 9/11 Museum at Ground Level. The result is as much a case study in personality clashes as it is a recording of artifacts.

Yes, we do see some of the archival video footage that deep down we always hope to never see again. The towers collapse, the air is clouded, and people are panicked. Soon after the attack, Michael Shulan converts his Soho storefront space into a crowd-sourced photo exhibit called “Here is New York. He invited people to bring their own photos for display. Shulan had instinctively created a shared space where people would come to pay tribute to lives lost and remember the day that should not be forgotten. A few years later, something strange happened … Michael Shulan was named Creative Director of the museum that was in the early planning stages.

Shulan’s vision conflicted at times with Museum Director Alice Greenwald’s vision. “What should the museum be?” Ms. Greenwald had run the Holocaust Museum in NYC, and had a definite idea of what this should be, while Shulan had zero museum experience and wondered if they were creating a memorial or a museum. He wanted to provoke questions, while she wanted to provide answers. A $500 million budget was at stake, and they couldn’t even agree on the approach.

We get a countdown to the museum’s opening, and even hear from the Construction Manager as work proceeds. ‘The Last Column’ provides for an interesting segment, and we see the flood that affected many of the collected artifacts. Michael Bloomberg’s influence is noted, and we see the ‘composite’ – the compacted floors on display. The documentary does focus on emotions, but it’s not the emotions we typically associate with 9/11. Instead, it’s Shulan’s disappointment and frustration. The film touches on the criticism received from the family in regards to the high ticket costs and souvenir shops, and it’s the posted quote that sticks with us: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

Available now on VOD

WATCH THE TRAILER